(Carson, CA) –Katy Pinto, a professor of sociology at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), has been honored by the California State University (CSU) with the Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award (FILA) for her innovative approach to student advisement that encourages self-advocacy and professional development.
Pinto was one of 19 CSU faculty members to receive the award, which honors faculty who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership to advance student success. Awardees receive $5,000, as well as $10,000 allocated to their academic department in support of ongoing innovation and leadership to advance student achievement at the CSU.
“I was ecstatic when I heard I had received the award. Faculty work hard, but not for recognition. When faculty do get recognized it’s an amazing feeling,” said Pinto. “At the same time, this award is a promise that I’ll keep working hard for students.”
Pinto and the other honorees were selected by a committee comprised of faculty, representatives from the California State Student Association, and staff members from the CSU Office of the Chancellor. The committee reviewed more than 200 nominations to identify the awardees. Funding for the awards is provided by grant support from the College Futures Foundation.
“These outstanding faculty consistently engage students with innovative practices and foster stimulating and equitable learning environments that support these students on their path to graduation,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “Their commitment to deepen and enrich learning by putting students at the center of all they do is fundamental to the mission of the CSU, and is helping to transform higher education nationwide.”
Pinto’s advising approach establishes trust, communication, and connection with her students. She encourages students not to internalize failures or barriers; instead, she enlists them as advising partners to shed light on their most pressing problems. She said that her students feel better about the time they put into their studies, and that they are more confident and excited about their futures and career prospects.
The FILA awards also recognize faculty leaders who have implemented innovative practices in teaching, course design, or support programs that significantly improve student outcomes.
To respond to student reports of their most significant challenges, Pinto overhauled exam and project formats, improving students’ learning outcomes, and organized student cohorts to help them feel less isolated on campus. Pinto has also developed graduate classes in writing and professional development to help students prepare for life after graduate school.
As a result of Pinto’s work, students convey greater satisfaction with the degree program and CSUDH for supporting their success. “Dynamic problems deserve dynamic solutions. Our students need to know that just as they struggle in classes – or with work and family – we’ve experienced these struggles, too. Sharing that with them humanizes us as their guides in higher education,” Pinto said. “It also lets them see that they can overcome any barriers or obstacles.”
As the current chair of CSUDH’s Graduate Council, Pinto is also working closely with faculty to shape graduate education across campus.
“Dr. Pinto’s innovation has helped to further integrate graduate students into the CSUDH community, has encouraged the development of personal agency in her students and has supported graduate students’ sense of accomplishment, belonging and satisfaction,” said Claudia G. Peyton, interim dean of graduate studies and research at CSUDH.